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My First Adventure to Shantou
This blog is a first for the old dude with attitude.
I've nver blogged before and I've never been to mainland China either so this is my chance to record the adventure and learn a bit more about CFA Connect at the same time.
Having travelled the world extensively, international airports, long flights and being in a country where English is difficult is not new however I had not flown with Virgin Atlantic before and have not been to Hong Kong since the new airport opened so this trip was a learning experience from the outset.
Day 1 : Melbourne - Sydney - Hong Kong
Departure time 1015hrs so arrived at Tulla by 0900hrs thanks to my lovely wife who transported me (and who will collect me on my return unless I say bad things about her!) before collecting our grandson who she was minding for the day. Thanks Huni!!
Now being an old dude of substantial proportions one doesn't generally fly economy so, this being the first trip with Virgin Atlanic, one booked the entire trip Premium Economy. The domestic travel is provided by Virgin Blue at a cost of around $1,200 which is fairly expensive these days. So I am puzzled why the Premium Economy seats on the domestic flight were empty while I sat just in front of the tail fins .... I must drop Sir Richard a note just to let him know that flying businss with United Airlines on any international leg means flying first class on domestic flights.
Lesson 1: Next time don't book Melb - Hong Kong with Virgin Atlantic 'cos you pay a lot for the Melb-Syd leg and the only benefit is that you don't have to handle your luggage in Sydney, oh and you get a voucher for the transfer from the domestic terminal to the international terminal. The small advantage is not worth the expense so save money and arrange the domestic flights independantly.
On the basis of my one and only flight with Virgin Atlanic (I don't return until July 12) I would highly recommend them. The cabin was immaculate despite the plane being a few years old, the cabin crew were helpful and cheerful, the food was great, the entetainment system is probably the best I've seen, the seats (and I can only talk about the Premium Economy seats) were very comfortable. All round, one of the best flights I have had.
Warning 1: A survey of one does not a survey make so don't hang me if you have a different opinion, nor should anyone choose to fly Virgin Atlanic on the basis of one flight ...
Flying into Hong Kong at night (another first - it's always been daylight on previous trips) was almost magical. Today, the city or region we know as Hong Kong is really a collection of dozens of settlements on numerous islands dotted throught the area, so the spectacle of illumintated buildings and ships lights dotted throughout the sea which was sparkling with moonlight was quite amazing.
Hong Kong's new airport is equally spectacular. Built on an island that was mostly flattened to make way for the airport (the island was quarried to produce the material to "reclaim" land from the sea) the new airport is a fair way from downtown Hong Kong. As this was just a stopover I stayed at the CityGate Novatel which is close to the airport. This new airpot is brilliant. The terminal is a long narrow building that is situated beside the runway. There are at leaast 80 gates (I saw a sign that mentioned gates 1-80) all side by side so, if you nimagine 80 jumbo's or A380's parked side by side with about 15 metres between wingtips, you get an idea of how long this bilding is.
Anyone who has made the trek to the furthest gate at Tullamarine's interntional terminal will know that walking 8 to 10 gates is a long walk so can you imagine walking 30 to 40 gates to go get your luggage? The idea of catching a train appealed to me so that's what I did - 2 tracks run undeneath the terminal building and driverless trains go back and forward from one end to the other every 3 or 4 minutes 24/7!